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Prophetic - Lions make good on title promise

March 17, 2003|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

CATONSVILLE, Md. - Before every Walkersville girls playoff game, junior Chelsea Trout made a promise to the team's only senior, Koffi Harrison.

"I promised her before every game it wouldn't be her last," Trout said. "Today, I promised her she'd be a state champion."

Indeed, she is.

Displaying a suffocating defense that challenged every shot, Walkersville capped a 24-1 season with a 40-32 victory over defending champion DuVal for the Class 2A championship Saturday afternoon at University of Maryland-Baltimore County.

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"Wow," Harrison said minutes after the game. "I'm the happiest person alive right now.

"This is so sweet, to come here for the first time, to be nervous, to be the underdogs because the other three teams were here last year, it's a dream come true."

The Lions held the Tigers (21-3) to 27.5 percent shooting (11 of 40), and turned up the defense down the stretch. DuVal missed nine straight shots at one point in the fourth quarter and scored only two points in transition the entire game, with Walkersville playing tight man-to-man.

"I told them before this weekend we had the best defense in the state of Maryland, and if we played it the way we're capable, we'd win a championship," Lions coach Mike Mathis said.

Walkersville's first state title comes in its first appearance at the state tournament. Sweetening the deal, the Lions beat the most storied girls program in the state - DuVal has won a record seven state titles.

"Right now, I'm still in shock," said point guard D.J. Vernoy, who failed to score Saturday but played stellar defense to hold DuVal point guard LaQuita Whitmore to 10 points. "In our area, no one thought we would win a state title in our first time here, and DuVal's won it seven times."

The Lions' offense also rebounded from a near-disasterous 13-for-57 effort (22 percent) the day before against Aberdeen in a 40-37 semifinal victory.

Walkersville made 6 of 12 shots in the first quarter while holding DuVal to 1-for-10 shooting in the first eight minutes. Harrison had seven points in the first quarter as the Lions took a 13-4 lead.

"We were hitting shots," Mathis said. "We're a good shooting team, and I didn't think we'd shoot that poorly two games in a row."

Trout found her jumper in the second quarter, making all four of her attempts to give Walkersville a 24-13 halftime lead.

"It's a great feeling," Trout said. "I hadn't hit anything in the playoffs, and I got in a groove when it mattered most."

The Lions' offense fell flat in the third quarter, amking just 2 of 11 attempts. DuVal mounted its most serious threat in the quarter, cutting a 26-15 lead to 26-21 and trailing 30-25 entering the fourth.

"I even thought when they made that mini-run in the third quarter, we were still playing great," Mathis said. "They had to work for everything they got."

Baskets by Harrison (who finished with a game-high 16 points) and Gina Casadei in the first minute of the fourth quarter gave Walkersville a 34-25 lead, and DuVal made only 2 of 12 shots in the quarter.

"We practice so hard at (defense), and it's definitely our strong point," said Trout, who finished with 13 points. "It won us this championship."

Harrison's breakaway layup off a defensive rebound with 37 seconds left gave the Lions a 39-30 lead and iced the game.

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